Some mince pie facts:
- Here in the UK, Christmas is not Christmas without mince pies, it just isn't!
- They appear in the supermarkets round about October time and get everyone in a "too soon for Christmas" tizzy.
- Everyone says "This is my first mince pie this year" when they have their first of the season (forgetting all the ones they ate up in January!)
- WAY back in the day they contained meat but no more - they are a mix of dried fruit, fat and alcohol in a pastry case - sounds good huh!
- The home made ones are so much better then the shop ones (too much of a weird gloopy stuff inside and not enough fruit)
- When a friend pops round for a cuppa in December it's the law that you offer them a mince pies (well, maybe I made that one up but it's almost/should be the law!)
- Mince pies (shortened to minces) is Cockney rhyming slang for eyes
- They can be served hot or cold, as a pudding or dessert or as a snack instead of a biscuit/cookie
- You can have them on their own or with cream or ice cream. Then on Christmas Day only (ok, maybe Boxing Day too if you have leftovers) with Brandy Butter or Brandy cream
- At some point every one has bought a box of posh mince pies, taken them out of their foil cases, sprinkled them with icing sugar and tried to pass them off as home made!
Best Ever Mince pies
1 jar of mincemeat (I used Robinsons and used half of a 411g jar)
A tablespoon of Brandy (optional)
9oz (255g, 2 1/2 cups) plain flour
6oz (170g, 3/4 cup) baking margarine or butter
2oz (55g, 1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 egg yolk (If you're in the UK always look for eggs with the British Lion Eggs quality mark)
2 teaspoons cold water
icing sugar to serve (optional)
- Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the chopped up margarine or butter
- Rub in
- In a jug, place the egg yolk, sugar and water & mix with a knife
- Pour this mix into the flour/fat mix and stir with the knife until mixed
- Squeeze together with your hands then turn out onto a lightly floured surface
- Kneed lightly until smooth then wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 1/2 hour
- Heat the oven to 180 c, 350 f, gas 4
- Cut the pastry in half and roll out one half to about 4mm (3/16")
- Cut out as many circles (mine are 6.5cm, 2.5" that's my largest pastry cutter!) as you can and press them lightly into a muffin tray
- Stir the brandy into the mincemeat if using
- Put a teaspoon of mincemeat on each pastry base. Don't overfill or it will go everywhere but don't be mean and underfill either! The photo above shows a good balance between the two
- Pop the scrappy bits of pastry to one side and roll out the other half of the pastry
- Cut slightly smaller circles (mine are 6cm, 2.25") this time
- Pop a splash or two of cold water in a dish. Wet your finger with the water and run it all round the end of the pastry circle, then pop it onto the base and press lightly down to seal the edges
- Repeat for all the bases you have so far
- Squeeze all the scrappy leftover bits of pastry together, knead lightly and roll out again
- Continue cutting circles and making pies until you either have 18 lidded pies or 12 lidded pies and 12 open ones*.
- Take a pair of kitchen scissors and make 2 snips in the lids. Some people stab holes with a fork or sharp knife, my mum always snipped with scissors so that's what I do.
- Bake in the oven for 15 - 20 mins until light golden brown
- Cool on a wire rack
- Dust with icing sugar to serve - or not, either is fine!
This rich sweet pastry is also perfect for jam tarts.
Adding egg to a shortcrust style pastry like this is a little bit different so before taking a trayful to a party or something you might want to consider if anyone has an egg allergy. If you are concerned, there is some really useful information about egg allergy from British Lion Eggs.
If you are taking home made mince pies to a Christmas party maybe just add a label "contains gluten, eggs" etc, especially if people are not familiar with mince pies. If you choose a mincemeat with alcohol or add the brandy like I do guests might like to know that too!
I hope you try them, they really are good - Best Ever - honestly!